THE BLOG

The Beltway's Fear and Loathing of Democracy

You can tell how much Washington, D.C. is panicking by the rise of grassroots politics by looking at the now weekly declarations by politicians and pundits that they actually hate democracy. That's hyperbole, you say? Just take a look at a few comments that have come from the upper echelons of the political/media establishment - comments that finally admit to us how those who purport to legislate and report in our name really in their gut despise American democracy.

Two days after Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in the primary, New York Times columnist David Brooks announced that voters shouldn't be allowed to decide elections. Yes, that's right - he wrote:

"Polarized primary voters shouldn't be allowed to define the choices in American politics."

This week, New Republic editor Peter Beinart publicly celebrated the corporate-funded Democratic Leadership Council for its effort to insulate politicians from accountability to voters - actually claiming with a straight face that such insulation means politicians will better represent voters:

"The DLC remains an organization of politicians that believes the less beholden politicians are to grassroots activists, the better they will represent voters as a whole."

Then, just a few days ago, the Bush administration quietly acknowledged it doesn't care about democracy in Iraq - that is, it doesn't care about the fake rationale the administration gave for the war after WMD weren't found. Buried in a New York Times story, a military expert who had been given a White House briefing on Iraq said:

"'Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy' in Iraq."

At the end of the week, the Associated Press caught U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) giving the big middle-finger to American voters when it comes to Iraq, saying that no matter how much voters oppose the Iraq War, the war must go on. The AP reported:

"Sen. Conrad Burns said the U.S. must show 'great patience and resolve' and stay in Iraq even if public support for the war continues to erode."

Now, in a New York Times piece today about YouTube, New Republic writer Ryan Lizza opines that YouTube's ability to broadcast politicians' public statements to the masses may change politics "not for the better." Democratic strategist Howard Wolfson correctly points out that such technology "create[s] more accountability and more democratization of information in the process...This allows you to avoid the middleman." But that increased level of democracy, accountability and direct access to politicians seems to make Lizza uncomfortable, and clearly makes the Bush White House nervous. They decry some unproven damage to the "political discourse" as a means of trying to hide their disdain for democracy, and their hatred that people increasingly do not have to rely on media or consultant middlemen for information. Apparently, to these insiders, there's something horribly wrong with a democratic system that, before election day, lets voters know that their U.S. Senator or their leading congressional candidate is an open racist. Here's the New York Times excerpt:

"Matthew Dowd, a longtime strategist for President Bush who is now a partner in a social networking Internet venture, Hot Soup, looks at the YouTube-ization of politics, and sees the 'death of spontaneity. It's taken some richness out of the political discourse...There's no, 'Is this the right thing for political discourse?' It's just there.'"

This is a landmark, folks. Usually, the establishment hides its hatred for democracy in vague rhetoric. But now, scared for their relevance and angry that their elitist sensibilities are being offended by ordinary voters, their loathing is all out in the open. Pundits and politicians in Washington are publicly telling American voters that we do not matter, and that they believe we should not matter.

But don't get depressed - they are saying this because they realize that we actually DO matter, and they are scared. They are trying to once again make people believe we really have no power - when what's becoming obvious is that ordinary people have power to change things when we get organized. What's becoming obvious, in short, is that the politicians, pundits and insiders in Washington who pretend to control everything ultimately do not control anything when ordinary citizens decide enough is enough and fight back. The harder we fight, the more success we will have - and the more the establishment will gnash its teeth at democracy. But rest assured - the more declarations they make like the ones above, the more we are scaring the hell out of them.